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Snail Lifespan: How Long Do Snails Live?

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Snails can be found in backyard gardens all over the world, and they lead very interesting lives. But how long do snails live, and what is the average snail's life cycle? These creatures are very unique, and many facts about them may surprise you!

In this article, we'll review the lifespan of the common garden snail, what they must go through in order to reproduce and perpetuate their species, and how their lifespan compares to other potential garden pests. If you've always wanted to know about snails, read on to learn more!

how long do snails live
Snails are unique in that you can tell a snail's age by looking at its shell.

© iStock.com/Daniella Schroeder

How long can a snail live?

Snails typically live 2-5 years in the wild. Some larger species can live 15 and 25 years in captivity . While this answer may surprise you, common snails can live long lives without the threat of predators or other environmental concerns.

Snails are unique in that you can tell a snail's age by looking at its shell. It keeps the shell it was born with and gains more rings in it each time it grows. It is similar to a tree in that we can tell the exact age of a snail by looking at the markings on its shell.

While not many people keep snails as pets or in captivity, this is where the chances of snail survival are highest. Free from predators and environmental hazards, snails live surprisingly long.

Different species of snails have different lifespans, with some small aquatic snails only living for a year or two. Most large terrestrial snails can live for more than five years, whether they are kept in captivity or not, while large marine mollusks can potentially live hundreds of years.

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How long do snails live?
Snails live from 1 to 10 years in the wild and up to 25 years in captivity .

© Guillermo Guerao Serra/Shutterstock.com

Average Life Cycle of a Snail

If snails can live this long, does their life cycle have anything to do with it? Let's learn more about the average snail's life cycle so we can fully understand what they go through from egg to old age.


During the breeding season, snails lay an average of 50 to 400 eggs. Snails are hermaphrodites, which means they can provide both sperm and eggs regardless of sex. However, they still breed with each other and lay eggs at specific times of the year depending on the species.

Many terrestrial snails build a den or sanctuary to lay their eggs. This involves them digging a small hole in the dirt where their eggs are protected by several layers of plant matter. However, this is usually not enough for all of their eggs to survive, and many snail eggs never hatch.

All snail eggs take a week to a month to hatch. These animals grow inside eggs like tiny snails, with their signature soft shell that stays with them throughout their life cycle.

How long do snails live?
Free from predators and environmental hazards, snails live surprisingly long.

© microcosmos/Shutterstock.com

Small snail

Once the snail hatches, it immediately begins eating the eggs that hatched from it. It is common for many snails to be born in near transparent shade, their shells are so soft that they do not offer the snail any protection.

This is one of the many reasons they eat their own hatched eggs. These eggshells are rich in valuable nutrients and calcium, which are key to forming a strong and protective snail shell. If a snail gets enough calcium and grows stronger, it's more likely to survive this dangerous time in its life.

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adult snail

There is not a fixed age at which a snail becomes an adult, although many would argue that this is when the snail becomes sexually mature. This can happen over a period of weeks to months, depending on the species of snail.

You'll recognize adult snails by their larger size, hardened shell, and many rings on their shell. Snails are constantly undergoing transformation, growing soft bodies and shells year after year.

When it comes to snail soft bodies, what's the difference between a snail and a slug, especially when comparing their lifespans? Now let's learn more about these differences!

How do their lifespans compare to slugs?

How long do snails live?
It is common for many snails to be born in near transparent shade, their shells are so soft that they do not offer the snail any protection.

© Nailia Schwarz/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to garden pests, snails and slugs are often some of the most annoying and difficult to deal with. But that doesn't mean they have no value to garden environments and ecosystems, and controlling their lifespan is not something humans should be responsible for.

Speaking of lifespan, how does the lifespan of a snail compare to that of a slug? We already know that snails can live surprisingly long lives, whether they're kept in captivity or not. A slug's life is a little different.

On average, slugs live anywhere from six months to two years, depending on the relative protection of the species and its environment. Predation is the greatest threat to a slug's lifespan, often in the form of disturbance by birds, other insects, or even humans.

While snail shells don't offer much protection in the grand scheme of things, this may be one of the many reasons why snails live longer than slugs. Without any protection and not particularly fast, slugs are the favorite food of many wild animals.

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However, slugs are also hermaphrodites, and they reproduce much like snails. They can maximize the number of eggs laid at one time, and like snails, they find protection in dirt, plants, and other outdoor environments.


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about the author

august croft

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full time in Oregon. A graduate of Southern Oregon University with a BA in Theater and a major in Creative Writing, I have an interest in a variety of topics, especially the history of the Pacific Northwest. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping on the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my family's kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast-iron skillet.

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